I thought I would throw an iPad 3 review together, now that I’ve had about a week to use it. There are a bunch of features I won’t mention, either because it’s not a key feature to me, or because it’s not available in my area (4G LTE).
Retina Display There are no words to fully describe it. The sharpest computer display I’ve ever seen. Photos look like glossy prints. Text looks better than a magazine. It’s not just prettier though, it’s easier on the eyes as well. Try reading all day on a standard resolution iPad, and then again on the iPad 3, and you’ll be a lot less fatigued after reading on the iPad 3.
The only drawback of the Retina Display is that I’ve found you have to be careful when picking home screen backgrounds (yep, such a 21st century “issue”). Pick a photo with too much detail in it, and it will be so sharp as to actually distract from finding the app you’re looking for. Choose your background images carefully.
Memory This is the second biggest feature, to me. This iPad has 1024MB of RAM instead of 512MB on the iPad 2 (or 256MB on the iPad 1). This means more apps stay open in the background, and switching between recently used apps happens a lot faster. I’ll often switch to an app I haven’t used for several hours, expecting it to need to relaunch, only to find that it’s still in memory. It’s a big difference.
From a development standpoint, this iPad would have been crippled if Apple stuck with 512MB of RAM. With the new display, just to show an image full screen takes 12.5MB of RAM. Even if you wanted a simple app to show a 10 frame animation, that’s 125MB of memory gone. With Seasonality Go, I’m seeing about 4-5 times the memory usage when using a full screen radar map with animation. With the iPad 3 though, it’s not a problem, there’s still plenty of memory to spare.
“This Runs Warm” The press (most notably Consumer Reports) has made a big stink about how the new iPad runs warmer than the old one. Does it? Yep. Does it matter? Nope. It feels warm only when playing games or doing something equally intense. During typical usage, it stays cool. Mine has never gotten what I would call “hot” or even uncomfortable. What do people expect when you pack a faster processor, bigger battery, LTE networking, and a screen that requires twice as many backlights all into a device the same size as the last generation? It’s going to run warmer, that’s all there is to it.
There is one drawback to this, and it’s more of a psychological issue. When using an iPad, if it gets warm, you start to realize the tablet is really like any other computer with hot components and things inside that are “working hard”. My iPad 1 always stayed cool to the touch while I was using it, and I think that made it feel like less of a computer and more of a pane of glass with some information I could interact with. With an iPad that gets warm, some of the magic is gone.
Ergonomics Coming from the iPad 1, this is the biggest drawback. Yes, the iPad 3 is thinner, and that is nice. But Apple also decided to taper the edges (this happened first with the iPad 2), resulting in there being no real “sides” to the device. This makes it difficult to push any of the buttons to adjust the volume or turn the device on/off. It’s easy to hit a button on a flat side, but difficult when you have to come from the back at a 45° angle. A similar change happened on the iPod touch a few generations back, and I can’t wait until Apple decides that having sides is cool again.
Camera This iPad has a new camera on the back. From what I’ve read, it’s the 5 megapixel image sensor from the iPhone 4, mated to the new lens elements in the iPhone 4S. The resulting images are impressive, but they’re not going to take the place of a digital camera (unless you only take pictures outside on a sunny day, I suppose). Still, I’m glad I have one more 1080p video camera close by for when my 1-year-old daughter does something new.
Summary Overall, this iPad is the best one ever, but you already knew that. Should you upgrade? If you have an iPad 1, then by all means buy a new iPad 3. You’ll love it, and it will feel so much more refreshing with the speed bump and the amazing display.
The decision isn’t as easy if you have an iPad 2, of course. If I had an iPad 2, I would wait and upgrade once the iPad 4 comes out next year. But that’s just me.